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Democratic Party hopes one of six candidates will unseat Republican Kevin Yoder

Six Democratic Congressional candidates are running against Republican incumbent Kevin Yoder in the Kansas 3rd Congressional District, which includes all of Wyandotte and Johnson counties and a piece of Miami County, in the August 7 Primary election.

The candidates are Sharice Davids, a lawyer and economic advisor; Mike McCamon, former tech and nonprofit executive; Tom Niermann, a high school history teacher; Jay Sidie, businessman; Brent Welder, labor lawyer and Sylvia Williams, a retired banker.

The six candidates attended a congressional candidate forum in Wyandotte County at the Kansas City Kansas Community College at the end of May hoping to capture voters support and help them to “de-yoderize the state,” a slogan worn on t-shirts by Democratic supporters.

The forum sponsored by SwingLeft KS-03, Wyandotte County Young Democrats and the Kansas City Kansas Community College Student Senate was well attended with voters packing the auditorium to hear where each candidate stood on issues of health care, gun control, immigration and minimum wage.

Each candidate had 90 seconds to answer the following question: What policies do you support regarding immigration, border patrol and DACA?

Tom Niermann response: I firmly believe that immigration is part of our identity as America. We are a nation of immigrants and the current policies under discussion, like building a wall, are policies that make no sense. I believe that we need policies in place that allow DACA kids to be safe, a path to citizenship, and we should all remember as a nation of immigrants, an immigration policy should welcome people to the United States. This is how the United States became who it is. We need a policy that would welcome the best and the brightest into the United States.

Jay Sidie said:
I believe that we need a clean path to citizenship for the Dreamers. It is only right that the people who have grown up here in the United States be able to stay here. I want to see that the H-1B visas be reinstated because they provide a valuable resource to our community and our businesses here in the United States. I am a firm believer that immigration was a key to America greatness. It is going to be the key to our future. What is really causing all the immigration fear? Why are we so afraid of immigrants? It is because corporate America is stealing resources away from the middle class, outsourcing jobs offshore and they don’t want to take the blame. Instead they are saying immigrants are coming here taking your jobs and your resources. They are trying to deflect what is really going on in the economy and pushing the blame on immigrants who have no fault at all. We should be embracing immigration.

Sylvia Williams reply:
Immigration is about building families. When we focus on that, we need a DACA bill and a comprehensive immigration reform bill that leads to citizenship. We need to put together bills that don’t tear families apart, that we bring them together.

Sharice Davids said: I am supportive of DACA and want to see families together. I want a path to citizenship for immigrants. We need to make sure that we are not disregarding that Native Americans are still here and that there are a lot of people who descended from people who were brought here against their will. We need to embrace that part of our history so that we can move forward.

Brent Welder explained:
The issue facing Dreamers today was put on my radar before Dreamers was a term. My wife was the Latino outreach director for this Congressional District. She hired a team of young Latino students to go door to door and register voters. A 16-year-old girl walked in and wanted a job but didn’t know what a social security number was. My wife had to be the first person who had ever told her in her life that because she was brought over at the age of 1, that she was not an American citizen and wouldn’t be able to legally work. This girl grew up here, lived her life here, went to school here and is as American as apple pie. There is no reason she is not an American. If Ronald Regan can give amnesty to undocumented workers 30 years ago, we can give a similar pathway to citizenship today. Instead we have a president that is ripping and tearing families apart.

Mike McCamon said: My career benefited from immigration. Apple and Intel both were founded by immigrants. I also have an immigrant in my family, my daughter was born in Cambodia and we adopted her when she was nine months old. We have a reign of terror in our immigrant communities, even our own city. Since Trump has been in office, he has deported over 140,000 people back to their own countries. That is almost as many people who live in Kansas City, Kansas. Most of these people had minor violations, they were not hardened criminals. We need to end this reign of terror. It does no good to tear families apart. Dreamers should have amnesty and there should be a reform path to citizenship. We do not need a border wall.

Each candidate was asked where they stand on minimum wage as many families in their district are struggling to pay the bills and feed their families.

Jay Sidie—we all deserve a livable wage.

Sylvia Williams—we must tie the wages to the cost of living. Minimum wage should be around $15 an hour.

Sharice Davids—I agree we need a livable wage. It takes two people in a household making $15 an hour just to cover the basics.

Brent Welder—Since the first day of running for office, I have made it clear we need a $15 wage. In Kansas, you need to have the $15 an hour wage just to have the bare minimum in life.

Mike McCamon—I support a livable wage.

Tom Niermann—I have my students research what it costs to live, how much is the cost for housing, food, utilities, etc. I have them do the math to see how many hours they need to work to support theirselves. They quickly learn that the current minimum wage does not allow people to live their life independently. If you have children on top of that, it is a fantasy land to think that current wages will allow working people to support families. We must look at supporting $15 an hour minimum wage and a prevailing wage.

Candidates were asked about their stance on gun violence and arming teachers in the classroom.

Sylvia Williams—Teachers should not be armed. I am for universal background checks and waiting periods before someone gets a gun. We need to raise the age of purchasing a weapon to 21.

Sharice Davids—I support universal background checks. We need to take a holistic approach, study the problem, we need to know who can get their hands-on firearms. We should not arm teachers.

Brent Welder—Our congress is owned by the National Rifle Association (NRA). Last year, I called for a ban on assault weapons. We need to save our children and protect them. We need to make sure that our politicians in Washington know it is more important for a child to live their life than for someone to obtain an assault weapon.

Mike McCamon—Money is the resource of this problem and we need to cut off the legs of the NRA. Gun locks would have saved the children’s’ lives in the school shootings. Gun owners should have gun locks on their weapons. Access to weapons is also part of the problem.

Tom Niermann—no on arming teachers in the classrooms. I had a gun brought into my classroom. Arming teachers is one of the stupidest solutions I have heard. Let’s be clear here, we are not taking about the 2nd Amendment, we are talking about saving lives. All of us send our kids to schools and right now we have more children killed by gun violence than soldiers who have served in two active wars. How is that possible?

Jay Sidie:
—85 percent of Americans want gun violence legislation and they want legislation on immigration, health care, and environmental issues. We have Washington lobbyists controlled by corporate America that is stopping it from happening. We all know how to fix the gun violence issues. We should look at having a buy back program to get the guns off the streets. We should make people go through background checks to purchase a gun, just like having a driver’s license, they should have a license to own a gun. But corporate America doesn’t want that to happen.
At the end of the forum, the six candidates message was clear that Republican Congressman Kevin Yoder, who has served in office since 2011 needs to leave office.

The candidates have publicly pledged to support the Democratic winner of the Primary election in August so that a Democrat can win the seat in November.